I have been an apothecary for most of my adult life after my grandfather decided I was a natural for it; and he decided he wanted to travel the world and gave me the keys to his shop.
For about twenty years, I have helped people who felt I was their last resort. Most of them just wanted to live a little bit longer, to get their affairs in order, to say their final goodbyes, and I was ok with that.
A few months ago, a long-time friend came to me, asking for my help with her father. He had been involved in a car wreck, and he was dying. She asked if I could see him and do whatever I could for him.
I went to see him later that evening at the hospital. I asked the nurse at the admissions station what room he was in, and she told me, and I took the elevator to the third floor.
As I got out of the elevator, I heard someone yelling and cussing out the nurses and the sound of a food tray hitting the floor.
I walked towards the room number the nurse gave me, and it was him, still yelling and cussing at the poor nurses.
His first words to me were, “Who the goddamn hell are you, and what the hell are you looking at?”
I smiled slightly and said, “Your daughter Kelly asked me to come to visit with you for a bit to see if perhaps I could help you.”
He blinked and looked me up and down as if I had suddenly turned green with yellow polka dots and had three eyes and horns. He said, “Oh, so you’re the witch doctor she was rambling about.”
I almost laughed. I replied, “Well, I haven’t been called that in years.”
Without missing a beat, he asked, “What, a witch or a doctor, or whatever the hell you call yourself?”
Wow, I thought, what a bitter old man this was. I took a step forward towards him, put my hands in my pockets, and said, “I promised her I would come to see you and see if I could do anything for you.”
He said, “I don’t trust anyone who keeps their hands in their pockets or wears sunglasses or smiles a lot. It makes me think they have something to hide.”
“Ok,” I answered. I took my hands out of my pockets and took another step closer.
“That’s close enough, he said, raising his hand towards me.
“Well, I need to take a closer look at you and your medical record,” I said.
He yelled towards the door, “Mr. Stevens, get in here and bring me what you have on our witch doctor.”
A large man entered the room with the air of a hardened ex-marine, a merc. A hired bodyguard, a professional killer. He handed the man a thick folder and said, “This is what we have on him, sir.”
The dying old man took the folder and started coughing hard, grimacing and holding his right side. When he stopped coughing, he slowly opened the folder, rifled through a few pages, and stopped on one page.
He then said sneeringly, “Well, Mr. Olen Majji, according to some people, you could be considered a wizard as well,” looking right at me, holding my gaze.
I smiled softly and said, “Well, Mr. Marshall, people are entitled to their opinions. I try to help others out when I can,” I said carefully, staring back at him. I was quickly beginning to dislike this man more and more.
He then closed the folder, handed it back to the merc, and dismissed him with a wave of his hand. He then said, “The bottom line is, I am dying! The wreck damaged my liver, pancreas, and kidneys, and they don’t expect me to last a week. Can you change that?”
“Well, I would need to see your medical records, bloodwork, and the x-rays to ensure nothing is overlooked,” I said flatly. “I also need to ‘look’ inside you to understand the extent of your damage fully,” I replied.
“And just how the hell are you going to ‘look’ inside me?” he snorted.
“Well, I need you to drink this potion I have; it will allow me to take a look inside when I wear these blueish-tinted glasses,” I said as I pulled the potion from my left pocket and the glasses from my right.
He looked at me puzzled and said, “Fine, give it here,” He took the flask, opened it, and drank it all without hesitating.
I walked over beside the bed and placed both hands on his arm. My hands glowed slightly yellow, then the glow slowly covered his body, and I reached for my glasses and put them on.
I could see inside his body and then into his soul.
Yes, he was dying. He would not last a week. I could give him a few more years, maybe one or two, but somehow, I felt even that would not be enough for him.
I then closed my eyes and focused on his soul. I felt a cold, blackness, like a cold, bitter winter’s night from him. I opened my eyes slowly and saw a blackness from his skull down through his body, into his hands and feet. His beating heart was even darker. This man was full of bitterness and rage.
What I felt from this man left me with no doubt he had killed others with no more concern than swatting a fly.
No, I would not extend this man’s life.
I finally let go of his arm and stepped back from his bedside. I took a deep breath, looked him in the eyes, and slowly said, “I am sorry, there is nothing I can do for you. The damage is too severe.” I then took off my glasses, took the flask from him, and put them back in my pockets.
He glared at me and said, “Let’s can the bullshit and get right to the point. I have read that a wizard can perform what’s called ‘Soul Branding.’ Switch a person’s mind and soul with someone else. Switch bodies o to speak. Is this true, and can you do it?”. He was looking at me with the eyes of a dying man.
I slowly answered, “Soul Branding is not something I do, Mr. Marshall. The council would have to vote on it before approving it because it is considered dark magic, which is forbidden for most of us to use.”
I added, “Besides if it isn’t done properly, there is the chance the original soul could come back or not leave entirely. You could become possessed by the original owner.”
He said, “What if I paid you a million dollars?”
I shook my head no. Before I could tell him why, he asked, “Ok, what about five million?”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Marshall, not even for five million dollars,” I replied.
He then made his final bid, “What about fifty million? You would be a rich man! There are those out there who die every day, those who never amounted to anything; no one would miss them. Or, what about someone on death row? I could call the governor; maybe someone would be willing to switch with me for a few million? “
I just looked at him, not believing what I had just heard.
He rambled on again, “I am worth hundreds of millions, I have created thousands of jobs, I still have so much to do, I don’t have time to be dying over a damn car wreck!” He then started crying, muttering, “I shouldn’t be dying; I’m too important. I still have things to do. I have money.”
He looked at me again, with tears streaming down his face, and said, “I’m used to getting results to any problem I have by buying the right people to make it happen! Why won’t you help me? I know you know how to do what I need. Why won’t you do this for me? Do you want more money? What if I gave you a hundred million, half of my net worth? Would you do it then?”
I looked at him, anger slowly building inside.
I slowly said, “No.”
I briskly turned away from him and headed to the door. It seemed to take forever to get to the door. My mind was running off in a hundred different directions at once. It felt like I had a hundred thoughts all at once.
It broke my heart to hear the fear in his voice. He suddenly seemed like a little child, begging for a piece of candy and being told no.
Yes, I could do it; I knew how. It was more the principal of it. He wasn’t famous for science or art or medicine. He wasn’t a political leader, he wasn’t an innovator, and he wasn’t known for his generosity. He was just a ruthless businessman, used to getting his way all the time, no matter who he stepped on, and the way I saw how he treated those here at the hospital, no, he wouldn’t change if he got a new lease on life.
Sometimes, things do happen for a reason. I wasn’t about to take someone else’s life so he could keep living his with no respect or regard for others. Had he been a more generous soul, kinder, more respectful, I might have done as he asked.
He never even offered one single reflection or thought about what he would do with a new lease on life. Not once did he mention his daughter or his family. Not once did he even say how he would reward the family of whoever would give their life for his! No, this was a selfish little man. His self-importance, his greed, did him in.
Another might have given in to the one-hundred-million-dollar bribe, but I have my code of honor.
As I walked out the door, I looked at the merc stand guard, and he just nodded and said, “Have a good evening, sir” then he folded his hands in front and took his stance, looking straight ahead. I had half expected to be stomped on for refusing the old man, but nothing happened.
I turned back for one last look, and he was still crying but looked like an angry child who didn’t like to hear the word “NO.”
I truly felt sorry for him, but his soul was too dark for my comfort. I left the hospital and went to my apartment. I kept hearing his words, how he wanted to live, his bribes of money, how he deserved to live. But most of all, how people die every day who are nothing, how no one would miss them.
That sealed his fate. Everyone deserves the right to live. His statement about switching with someone on death row got to me.
No, I would not even do that. No, not even then.
It was close to midnight when I made it back to my apartment. I went inside and poured myself a full eight-ounce glass of whiskey and sat in my easy chair looking out the window into the city lights. I took a big gulp and ran it over in my mind again.
Would there ever be a situation where I would ask another to sacrifice their life so another could live another ten, fifteen, or twenty years or more?
The more I thought about it, the more the answer was No. I would never ask that of anyone. NEVER! Not even for a hundred million dollars.
I kept thinking of that one phrase in the Bible, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the gates of Heaven.”
Well, tonight, I understood why!